In our personal lives, we’re often not afraid to seek out help. We hire personal trainers to help us eat right and get in shape. We seek out financial advisors to help us maximize our investments. And, we look to therapists and mental health professionals to help us manage our day-to-day stresses. So, why wouldn’t the same concept apply to our business?
Some of the greatest minds in business have had mentors. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula, an early investor at Apple. What this means is that Mike Markkula, entirely unknown to him, helped shape the largest social media phenomenon of our time.
If you’re a business owner or you’re an entrepreneur with a new business idea, it’s important to find a mentor who has the know-how and experience to help you shape your success. Lynchburg’s Economic Development team has seen first-hand how beneficial mentorship can be to entrepreneurs just starting out, or even business owners who have been in business for years. That’s why we created Launched in Lynchburg, an online resource to help budding entrepreneurs learn from success stories and get connected with like-minded individuals. Look through our online portal and see who inspires you, who has a similar success story that you’re looking for, and get in touch with them.
Sometimes, experience means more than education.
The education you earned during your college career is invaluable. However, there are certain sets of skills and life experience that can’t be taught. During a mentorship process, your mentor can help you navigate the individual trials and hiccups that may pop up during the start-up phase. From personnel management to setting business goals, the right mentor will have already encountered a similar situation to yours.
Your mentor can act as a sounding board in evaluating your ideas and thoughts on major business decisions. Their perspective—as someone who has seen and lived through the start-up phase—will be priceless to you.
A mentor can help craft a culture.
A healthy company culture is vital to the growth of your business. In fact, it’s been proven to improve employee retention, create a better reputation and increase productivity. Whether your mentor is someone who works in leadership at your company or is someone who has worked in the corporate world for years, he or she will know the common triggers that prevent a company culture from thriving and will also know small, efficient ways to instantly give value to your team.
Stay in business longer.
According to the Small Business Association (SBA), 30 percent of new businesses may not survive the first 24 months and 50 percent of those may not make it past five years. However, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive longer than 5 years. That’s because a mentor can help navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner—challenges that could make or break a businesses if the owner doesn’t have the support he or she needs.
Select a mentor you can trust.
Finding a mentor that works with your personality type and has similar business experience isn’t always easy. Here are some tips on selecting a mentor:
- Find someone who is already successful at what you aspire to do. If you aspire to be the leader of a 100-person organization or if you hope to run your own small business, look for business leaders in the community that are already successfully leading in a similar space.
- Don’t limit yourself to just one mentor. If you can join into a network or group of individuals who are working toward a similar goal, you call all rely on each other for accountability, growth and perspective. Consider joining a group like CO.STARTERS for real-life business expertise. Or, look to online resources like Launched in Lynchburg for a jumpstart on your most common questions.
- Don’t assume your mentor has to be someone you know personally. It may even be beneficial to have a mentor that isn’t a close friend or acquaintance. Your mentor should be someone who can have the tough conversations with you—point out areas where you can improve as a leader or constructively give feedback on your ideas.
- Decide if you want your mentor to be someone within your organization or a similar one. If you’re not looking to start your own business, but simply grow within your current position or organization, look within your company for a mentor. Find someone at a senior level or even just someone you respect that has tenure to help you navigate what that growth could look like.
- Try to choose a mentor that isn’t “exactly like you”. This isn’t because similar personalities tend to clash, it’s because someone who isn’t your exact personality type can help you look at situations from a different perspective. If you’re more of an introverted person, consider finding a mentor who is more extroverted that can help you address any communication insecurities.
If you’re not ready to commit to a mentorship relationship, there are still other resources available to you to help grow your business or career. View our Navigrid resources to get started.